|Dragons (14) 14|
|Tries: Roberts, Clark Cons: S Davies 2|
|Bulls (17) 29|
|Tries: Arendse, Penalty try, Vorster, Du Plessis Cons: Goosen 2 Pens: Goosen|
South African side Bulls overpowered Dragons with a bonus-point win in the United Rugby Championship (URC) at Rodney Parade.
Bulls powered into an early 17-point lead with South Africa back Kurt-Lee Arendse’s score a highlight.
Dragons battled back with tries from Bradley Roberts and Max Clark to reduce the half-time deficit to three points.
Second-half scores from Harold Vorster and Bismarck du Plessis sealed victory for the visitors in Newport.
Bulls, inspired by their scrummaging dominance and ball-carrying ability of number eight Elrigh Louw, ended a three-match losing sequence as they lifted themselves to third in the table.
Dragons’ winless run has now extended to seven games, with six defeats and a draw.
It was a ninth loss in the league for Dai Flanagan’s side with only three victories as they lie 14th with only Scarlets and Zebre below them.
Gatland in attendance
Wales flanker Ollie Griffiths returned to the Dragons back row for his first appearance of the season after recovering from back and calf injuries.
Griffiths was one of five changes from the side that lost to Scarlets. Flanker Sean Lonsdale, fly-half Sam Davies, centre Max Clark and full-back Jordan Williams started, while Sio Tomkinson switched to the wing with Ashton Hewitt rested.
It was a tale of new and old coaches at Rodney Parade following the news Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan finally officially left the region this week.
New Wales boss Warren Gatland was in Newport to witness his first live domestic game in his second stint in charge after returning from New Zealand.
Bulls’ World Cup winning coach Jake White was not present at Rodney Parade due to illness.
Fly-half Chris Smith also missed out through illness, but his replacement Johan Goosen made an immediate impression after running back a loose Dragons kick and evaded the tackles of Sean Lonsdale and Griffiths.
Goosen released Arendse who rode a Rio Dyer tackle to slide over. Goosen converted before slotting a penalty.
Scrum-half Lewis Jones was shown a yellow card for deliberately punching the ball out of play under pressure from Bulls wing Canan Moodie.
A penalty try was awarded because a try scoring opportunity was denied as Bulls opened up a 17-point lead in 15 minutes.
The tide then turned. Dyer was denied a try Arendse’s smart covering tackle after the Wales wing collected a Davies chip kick.
Dragons, despite being down to 14 men, did not have to wait long for an opening score with a well-worked line-out move allowing hooker Roberts to dive over with Davies converting.
Goosen’s kicking out of hand was dreadful as he repeatedly missed touch. In contrast, a brilliant attacking kick by opposite number Davies laid the foundations for hosts’ second try.
Captain Steff Hughes was the architect with a long pass to fellow centre Clark, who crossed in the left-hand corner with Davies again converting as the hosts only trailed by three points at half-time.
Dragons brought on Wales flanker Taine Basham and prop Lloyd Fairbrother for Griffiths and Chris Coleman for the start of the second half.
Davies hit the bar with a penalty attempt to level the scores before Argentina scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou was one of the Dragons’ second-half replacements in his first game since the autumn internationals in November.
The Bulls’ scrummaging superiority continued and laid the platform for centre Vorster to crash over.
This was followed by the bonus point score from 38-year-old veteran replacement hooker Du Plessis, who powered over with his first contribution, which also completed the victory.
Dragons: Jordan Williams; Rio Dyer, Steff Hughes (capt), Max Clark, Sio Tomkinson; Sam Davies, Lewis Jones; Aki Seiuli, Bradley Roberts, Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, George Nott, Sean Lonsdale, Ollie Griffiths, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Brodie Coghlan, Rob Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, Huw Taylor, Taine Basham, Ben Fry, Gonzalo Bertranou, Will Reed.
Bulls: Kurt-Lee Arendse; Canan Moodie, Wandisile Simelane. Harold Vorster, David Kriel; Johan Goosen, Zak Burger; Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar, Mornay Smith, Ruan Vermaak, Ruan Nortje (capt), Marco van Staden, Cyle Brink, Elrigh Louw.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Sebastian Lombard, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Bernard van der Linde, Cornal Hendriks.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Assistant referees: Mike English (WRU), Tom Spurrier (WRU)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU).